Morneau’s successor faces challenges amid pandemic spending, unemployment

Canada’s next finance minister faces a serious challenge as the country charts its way through the most difficult economic circumstances since the Great Depression.

Chrystia Freeland, who will be sworn in later today after Bill Morneau resigned Monday night, will have to manage a COVID-19 recovery that is still very much underway, with more than 40 per cent of the three million workers who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic still unemployed as of mid-July.

Fewer than one-third of the 4.7 million Canadians who were receiving the $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit at the beginning of August would qualify for Employment Insurance when the CERB ends on Sept. 26, making the transition to EI another hurdle.

Meanwhile the spectre of protectionism continues to loom large after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum earlier this month _ Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also harbours protectionist sentiments _ further complicating trade relationships.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter says the longer-term issue is whether the surge in spending linked to the coronavirus will morph into a more permanent trend, with attendant tax and debt implications.

Ottawa has been pumping money into the economy since March, resulting in a projected debt of $343 billion, an increase of more than 1,000 per cent from the previous year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2020

Mortgage defaults after COVID 19 could look different than 2008, says economist

TORONTO _ A Bank of Canada economist says the current economic recovery could be different than the recovery from the financial crisis of 2008.

Bank of Canada Director of Financial Stability Mikael Khan said that while the employment rate has fallen due to the pandemic, house prices are recovering and keeping homeowners from filing for insolvency.

Khan said breaks from mortgage payments have bought home owners some time to get back to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn.

“The fact that these deferrals have been available is really, really important,” said Khan.  “Ultimately what matters most when it comes to defaults is people having a job, having their incomes. What the deferrals are doing is they’re essentially buying time for that process to unfold.”

Khan, who spoke at the Move Smartly Toronto Real Estate Summit on Monday, has been studying mortgage defaults. He compared the COVID-19 pandemic to a natural disaster, such as the 2016 wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alta., which also involved a mortgage deferral recovery plan.

Bank of Canada research found that while the wildfires caused a bigger spike in employment insurance filings than the 2008 recession, the EI trend reversed much faster after the fires than in 2008.

The 2008 conditions set off a lengthy recession due to “an underlying fragility in the global financial system,” the research suggested. But the wildfires, like the COVID-19 pandemic, were a sudden shock.

“One thing that’s always very important when you’re facing a large negative shock is the initial conditions,” said Khan.

“In Fort McMurray, when the wildfires hit, that’s an area that had already been struggling for some time with the decline in oil prices that had occurred about a year or so prior, so financial stress was quite high . . . Now, at the national level, what we’ve been concerned about for many, many years is the high level of household debt. That’s the number one pre-existing condition that was there when the pandemic struck.”

While there are some parallels, the rebuilding process from a pandemic remains more uncertain compared to a wildfire, the research said. Khan cited increased savings rates as an example of a fundamental shift with potential to affect how quickly the economy recovers from COVID-19.

Over the past few months, some have warned that it could lead to a deferral cliff once benefits such as Canada Emergency Response Benefit and mortgage deferrals _ run out.

“When it comes to bumpiness in the recovery . . . . this question that has been in the background of most of our discussions is, `To what extent will we see defaults or insolvencies?”’ said Khan. “I think it’s reasonable to expect some sort of increase. What we’d be concerned about, there, is a very large-scale increase.”

Khan said that when a mortgage is in default, it can be caused by a  “dual trigger” of both unemployment and a large decline in house prices. Home prices in many areas have recovered since the start of the pandemic, Khan said. The job market’s recovery will be key to determining the impact of mortgage deferrals, said Bank of Canada research cited by Khan.

Softening population growth from immigration could start to weaken house prices in the future. But for now, Khan said, it wouldn’t make sense for homeowners with healthy home equity to file for insolvency.

“Even in cases where a homeowner simply can’t make their mortgage payments anymore  as long as they have equity in their homes and the housing market is relatively stable _ there’s always the option to simply sell without kind of resorting to those sorts of measures,” said Khan.

Alberta cuts business tax, boosts infrastructure spending to reboot economy

By Dean Bennett

THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON _ Alberta is cutting business taxes, pumping billions into infrastructure and making a full-court press to lure jobs from Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to be placing a huge emphasis on finance and financial technology,” Kenney said Monday in Calgary.

“All of those banks and insurance companies down on Bay Street that are paying way more taxes. Their workers are paying way more taxes. They are paying way more for rent. They’re fighting Toronto traffic.

“We’re going to be telling them that they can save money for their shareholders, for their workers, for their operations by relocating financial and fin-tech jobs to places like downtown Calgary, downtown Edmonton.”

Kenney said they will also target companies in other locations such as Montreal, Houston and New York as his province works to dig out of a cratered provincial economy caused by the pandemic and by a global oil price war that sent profits into a tailspin.

Alberta has flattened the curve on COVID-19 and has reopened much of its economy, albeit with health safety conditions, and Kenney said now is the time to get the economy back on its feet.

This year’s budget deficit is expected to balloon from $7 billion to $20 billion.

Kenney announced an immediate $10 billion will be spent on a range of infrastructure projects, including roads, health-care facilities, and schools to create construction jobs, with spinoff benefits to other service providers.

Kenney cut the corporate income tax rate to 10 per cent from 12 per cent after taking office last year. That figure was to go down to eight per cent in the coming years, but Kenney announced it will be done this week. That makes it four percentage points lower than key competitors such as British Columbia.

Albertans already have the lowest tax regime in Canada and pay no sales tax.

There will also be an Innovation Employment grant to encourage high-tech companies and investment. The grant replaces tax incentives put in place by the previous NDP government, which Kenney scrapped on the grounds the incentives were too narrowly focused.

Details on this fund, and other sector-specific initiatives are expected in the coming days.

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the $10 billion will help as a short term  “shock absorber” but called Kenney’s other ideas unimaginative, adding the corporate income tax cut didn’t bring back jobs before the pandemic, and won’t bring them back after.

“There’s very little new that is in here and it proves that this government is already out of ideas,” said Notley.

Ken Kobly, head of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said the announcement delivers critical aid.

“The measures announced today will help business operators get back on their feet so they can begin rebuilding our economy,” he said.

The plan is a marked departure from the laissez-faire economic platform Kenney championed and won on in the election. Kenney chastised then-premier Notley’s NDP at the time for heavy spending on infrastructure and on day-to-day operations, saying it would cripple future generations with unsustainable debt.

Since then, as the oil and gas economy has been slow to recover, Kenney assumed a more direct interventionist approach.

In March, his government agreed to provide $1.5-billion, plus a $6-billion loan guarantee, to Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation, enabling the completion of the KXL pipeline.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said Monday that “there’s good debt and bad debt.” Bad debt, he said, is borrowed money for operations while good debt invests in infrastructure that in turn lures businesses to the province.

“This is an incredible ditch that we have to get through, and so it warrants a significant investment,” said Toews.

 

More Canadians are worrying about the economy and over half are cutting discretionary spending

 TORONTO, June 29, 2020 /CNW/ – COVID-19’s impact on the economy is causing many Canadians to worry about the future: 79 per cent of respondents in CIBC’s Financial Priorities Poll say they are concerned about continued recessionary times next year, compared to 55 per cent who said they feared an economic downturn in a December 2019 survey.

Economic worries may be a factor in why many Canadians are adjusting their financial habits.

Many respondents (63 per cent) say they have significantly cut down on discretionary spending and more than half (55 per cent) agree they need to get a better handle on their finances this year.

“It’s understandable that Canadians are worried about the economy and are feeling uncertain about the impact on their ambitions, but this is a time when good financial advice conversations are most valuable, including assessing your overall situation, looking at opportunities to improve cash flow, and adjusting your financial plan if necessary,” said Laura Dottori-Attanasio, Group Head, Retail and Business Banking, CIBC. “It’s a positive sign that many Canadians are taking a responsible approach to the situation by making changes to their spending and working to limit unnecessary debt. Good cash flow management now can help you through the current situation, and over the longer term free up funds to divert towards savings or other goals.”

The survey also found that 46 per cent of Canadians say the economic impact of the pandemic has adversely affected their finances and a similar number (47 per cent) feel it will take more than a year to get their personal finances back on track. Canadians are prioritizing building an emergency fund in 2020, citing this as a top goal for the remainder of the year, followed by steering clear of adding on debt. Of the 22 per cent of respondents who’ve had to borrow more in the past 12 months, the number one reason was for day-to-day items (38 per cent) followed by a loss of income (28 per cent).

“The impact of the pandemic will be felt by Canadians for some time. While we have a long way to go to get back to a normal economy, taking charge of your finances now with a savings and debt management plan is an important step towards putting your personal finances back on track,” added Ms. Dottori-Attanasio.

The survey also found:

  • Top financial goals for the remainder of 2020 are: generally saving as much as possible (37 per cent), and avoiding taking on more debt (36 per cent)
  • Close to three-fourths of Canadians (74 per cent) say the uncertainty of the current environment makes it difficult to plan ahead, and over half (54 per cent) are generally worried about their financial future
  • The number of people who say they’ve taken on more debt is lower (22 per cent) than in December 2019 (28 per cent). Among those who have taken on more debt, 38 per cent say they did so to cover day-to-day expenses or due to loss of income (28 per cent) and job loss (18 per cent, +9 per cent from December 2019)
  • Regionally, the poll found differences in how Canadians are tightening their wallets. Residents in the Prairies say they are cutting discretionary spending the most, led by 76 per cent of those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and 69 per cent of Albertans, compared to the national average of 63 per cent
  • At 58 per cent, taking on more debt to pay for day-to-day items was the highest in British Columbia, 20 per cent higher than the national average of 38 per cent

Disclaimer

From June 8th to June 9th 2020 an online survey of 1,517 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists was executed by Maru/Blue. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been weighted by education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) to match the population, according to Census data. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About CIBC

CIBC is a leading Canadian-based global financial institution with 10 million personal banking, business, public sector and institutional clients. Across Personal and Business Banking, Commercial Banking and Wealth Management, and Capital Markets businesses, CIBC offers a full range of advice, solutions and services through its leading digital banking network, and locations across Canada, in the United States and around the world. Ongoing news releases and more information about CIBC can be found at www.cibc.com/en/about-cibc/media-centre.html.

SOURCE CIBC

www.cibc.com

COVID 19 aid programs will have to end, others to be modified, Trudeau says

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ The federal government is in talks with business and labour groups to figure out the future of billions in emergency aid, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said one day after a warning that current spending was sustainable for only so long.

Emergency federal aid to date is approaching $152 billion in direct spending, which has pushed the deficit to an estimated $260 billion this fiscal year.

Parliament’s spending watchdog told a Senate committee Tuesday that current spending levels would limit the government’s ability to provide needed stimulus money during a recovery.

Budget officer Yves Giroux also said emergency programs had to sunset or else the country could be looking at tax levels not seen for generations.

Speaking outside his Ottawa residence Wednesday, Trudeau said some of the aid programs will have to be phased out.

Others, he said, would need to continue or be tweaked to aid in a recovery.

“We are still very much in the emergency phase, in the crisis phase of this, even as we’re seeing careful reopenings,” Trudeau said in response to a reporter’s question.

“We will, however, look very carefully at how we end certain programs, how we modify others in order to get our economy going again to where it was before (the pandemic) or even better.”

In his opening remarks, Trudeau seemingly previewed his thinking on the issue. He said fewer people would need help through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit as businesses reopen and workers are rehired, possibly with help from a federal wage subsidy.

The most recent CERB figures show more than $41 billion in benefits to 8.25 million people, pushing further beyond its $35-billion budget.

The first cohort of CERB recipients will max out their benefits the first week of July, raising questions about what to do with those who still don’t have a job, or those who can’t qualify for employment insurance.

“The focus of the next phase of the CERB has to be about those individuals and also create incentives to work for those individuals where some job may be available for them,” said Parisa Mahboubi, a senior policy analyst with the C.D. Howe Institute.

“The way that the CERB is designed may discourage them from accepting the job or looking for any job.”

A group of experts convened by the think tank recommended the government consider extending CERB eligibility beyond the July cutoff, but turn it into an income-tested benefit for those who go back to work.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos told a midday press conference the CERB would likely lead to another support measure because something new will be needed to create a smoother recovery phase. What that might look like, he didn’t say.

Having greater transparency about support programs would help Canadians determine if money is being spent well, and maintain the credibility of aid programs while deterring fraud, said Toby Sanger, director of Canadians for Tax Fairness.

“You would just have better designed programs,” he said. “There could be better third-party judging of how well these programs have worked or haven’t worked.”

He cited a request from his group and others for public details on companies that receive federal support, such as through the $73-billion wage subsidy program.

Federal figures showed there have now been 181,883 unique applicants approved for the wage subsidy, which covers 75 per cent of wages up to a maximum of $847 per week for each eligible employee.

The total value of benefits paid stands at $7.9 billion.

Trudeau urged companies to sign up for the wage subsidy during his opening statement, echoing his request for landlords to use a commercial rent assistance program that opened for applications this week.

That program offers forgivable loans to cover half of monthly rents in April, May and June, as long as landlords drop rents by at least 75 per cent over the same period for eligible small businesses.

Giroux estimated the net federal cost of the program at $520 million this fiscal year. The budget officer’s report released Wednesday morning put caveats on that estimate, owing to the lack of clear precedent for this kind of program.

His report said that means the assumptions about industry eligibility and uptake by landlords “rely heavily on judgment.”

Ontario: Paying Employees For The Victoria Day Holiday During The Pandemic

Monday May 18, is Victoria Day (Journée nationale des patriotes, or National Patriot’s Day, in Quebec); a holiday which most employees are entitled to take off and receive public holiday pay. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in emergency leaves, temporary layoffs and reduced schedules. As a result, some may have lost track of upcoming long weekends and public holiday pay requirements. Below is a refresher on employee entitlement to public holiday pay in Ontario and how to calculate pay for employees who’s employment has been affected by COVID-19.

Public Holiday Pay

Generally, employees qualify for public holiday pay on Victoria Day if they have worked all of their last regularly scheduled workday before the public holiday or all of their first regularly scheduled workday after the public holiday, or have reasonable cause not to have not done so. This means that some employees whose work has been affected by COVID-19, will still be entitled to the public holiday pay for Victoria Day.

For example, an employee might not be scheduled to work the day right before or after the holiday. As long as the employee works all of their last regularly scheduled shift before the holiday and all of the first one after it, or has reasonable cause for not doing so, they will be entitled to public holiday pay.

Employees on Leave or Layoff

Employees may be entitled to public holiday pay while on leave, including a protected leave related to COVID-19, such a declared emergency leave. If the employee worked the last regularly scheduled day of work before the leave, and the first regularly scheduled day of work after the leave, or has reasonable cause for failing to do so, he or she will be entitled to the paid public holiday.

Similarly, an employee on layoff may be entitled to public holiday pay for a public holiday that occurred while they were laid off as long as he or she works their last regularly scheduled day before the lay off began and her first regularly scheduled day after being recalled, or has reasonable cause for failing to do so, they will be paid for the public holiday.

Calculation of Public Holiday Pay

Despite being entitled to public holiday pay, depending on when the employee took leave or was laid off, the calculation may still result in no payment. Holiday pay is calculated using the regular wages earned by the employee in the four work weeks before the week with the public holiday, plus all of the vacation pay payable during those four work weeks before week with the public holiday, divided by 20.

So, if the employee has spent more than four weeks without wages or vacation pay before the week of Victoria day, the amount of holiday pay collected will be $0. Employment Insurance benefits received during a leave or layoff do not count as wages, and thus will not be counted in the calculation of public holiday pay.

Employees with Reduced Hours

Employees who have reduced hours of work due to COVID- 19 are still eligible for public holiday pay. Specifically, if the employer has agreed to or imposed a reduced work schedule, and the employee works the full reduced shift before the holiday, they will qualify. However, as with leaves and layoffs, employees must have earned wages or vacation pay in the four work weeks before the public holiday, otherwise the amount to which they are entitled will be $0.

Victoria Day, this Year

For many, the May long weekend traditionally means getting the yard and garden ready for summer, and/or spending time with family and friends. However, for many, getting together with loved ones, and shopping for summer goods in the stores may be challenging or not possible. As the long weekend approaches, it is important to remember to socially distance and observe all guidance provided by government authorities. On that note, we wish you a safe and healthy long weekend.


About Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Norton Rose Fulbright is a global law firm. We provide the world’s preeminent corporations and financial institutions with a full business law service. We have 3800 lawyers and other legal staff based in more than 50 cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Recognized for our industry focus, we are strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare.

Wherever we are, we operate in accordance with our global business principles of quality, unity and integrity. We aim to provide the highest possible standard of legal service in each of our offices and to maintain that level of quality at every point of contact.

For more information about Norton Rose Fulbright, see nortonrosefulbright.com/legal-notices.

Law around the world
nortonrosefulbright.com

Source: Mondaq

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from ILSTV

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest